msLaura: Modern Mama Laura Hamilton + Dan Baker = Julian Hamilton Baker & Adrian Hamilton Baker "When a woman tells the truth she is creating the possibility for more truth around her."
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I'm voting Republican...

Victory Gardening

More reasons to NOT let your baby cry it out

48 MPG? Ooooo, you sexy beast!

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June 12, 2008

I'm voting Republican...

About this movie...

UPDATE: I am NOT REALLY VOTING REPUBLICAN! I almost gave my mom a heart attack with this subject line before she actually watched the video. Rest assured, I never have, am not going to now, and likely will NEVER vote Republican. Just watch the video, people.

Victory Gardening

During World War I and World War II, the United States government asked its citizens to plant gardens in order to support the war effort. Millions of people planted gardens. Emphasis was placed on making gardening a family or community effort - not a drudgery, but a pastime, and a national duty.

Today food travels an average of 1500 miles from farm to table. The process of machine-planting, fertilizing, processing, packaging, and transporting food uses a great deal of energy and contributes to the cause of global warming. I try to purchase locally through farmer's markets, and through organic food delivery services like Spud that offer local food sources, but even when I can reduce the average distance traveled per grocery item to 350 miles (like I did on my last Spud order), well, that's still 350 miles. Not exactly a short drive.

If I eat from my garden, that's 0 miles traveled. Plus hey, the veggies and fruit from my garden are much fresher. I know what went onto them, I know who has handled them, and I know what kind of soil they grew in. Especially comforting these days when salad tomatoes are contaminated with salmonella.

Not to mention, food and food packaging waste are primary components of landfills. Growing your own food involves no shopping bags, no plastic wrap, no packaging...and any food waste leftover can go straight into your compost pile. Because you DO have a compost, pile, right? Another super-easy project that pays off handsomely and makes a huge difference in your waste footprint. Brown gold, baby!

Here's what we're growing in our garden this year:
Round Summer Squash
Buddha's Hand (a non-edible citrus, used for scenting the house)
Globe Artichokes
Meyer Lemon
3 types of Tomatoes
4 types of Peppers
Red and Green Shiso (a type of japanese green)
Violetta Artichokes
Mixed Salad Greens
Pole Beans
Lemon Balm
Santa Maria Plums

It was kind of a chore tilling the soil in my garden this year, but not THAT bad...just a few hours and then it was over. My veggie garden used to be a side lawn, but I had the lawn taken out and lots of soil and compost tilled in a few years back. Cost me about $450, and I had a drip watering system installed at the same time.

So now in the springtime I just push my shovel in at each spot next to a spout in my irrigation system, turn over the soil there, hack at it with my shovel a few times to mix up the soil, dump a little new compost in the hole, and stick the plant in.

Once I'm all done, I cover the area with mulch, water well, and that's it. I go in about once a week to do a little light weeding, I put tomato cages over the tomatoes, and supports around the beans. Other than that, I don't do much except harvest.

Julian helps me with plum picking, and we make plum butter (like jam, but thicker and not as sweet) and put that up in jars to eat the rest of the year on toast and in yogurt. Ideally I would like to grow enough to preserve other fruits and veggies for year-round eating, but with Adrian being so little, my time is kind of limited. He's too little to help, and wants to be inside the garden fence with me. Maybe next year I'll really kick things up, grow more and start canning my own tomatoes, making pickles, etc. The kids LOVE the garden. Picking a strawberry and popping it in their mouths totally sweet and warm from the sun is heaven for both of them.

I do have to brag that the applesauce from our mini apples is the sweetest and most flavorful you will ever taste. The regular jarred stuff has nothing in common, it's all watered down and yucky.

Here are some interesting links to Food Not Lawns, Edible Estates, and an effort in San Francisco to revive the Victory Garden.

Dan sent me this NYT article today. I'll try to post some of our garden photos in the next few days...

Banking on Gardening
June 11, 2008

CASSANDRA FEELEY prefers organic ingredients, especially for her baby, but she finds it hard to manage on her husband’s salary as an Army sergeant. So this year she did something she has wanted to do for a long time: she planted vegetables in her yard to save money.

“One organic cucumber is $3 and I can produce it for pennies,” she said.

For her first garden, Ms. Feeley has gone whole hog, hand-tilling a quarter acre in the backyard of her house near the Fort Campbell Army base in Kentucky. She has put in 15 tomato plants, five rows of corn, potatoes, cucumbers, squash, okra, peas, watermelon, green beans. An old barn on the property has been converted to a chicken coop, its residents arriving next month; the goats will be arriving next year.

“I spent $100 on it and I know I will save at least $75 a month on food,” she said.

She is one of the growing number of Americans who, driven by higher grocery costs and a stumbling economy, have taken up vegetable gardening for the first time. Others have increased the size of their existing gardens.

Seed companies and garden shops say that not since the rampant inflation of the 1970s has there been such an uptick in interest in growing food at home. Space in community gardens across the country has been sold out for several months. In Austin, Tex., some of the gardens have a three-year waiting list.

George C. Ball Jr., owner of the W. Atlee Burpee Company, said sales of vegetable and herb seeds and plants are up by 40 percent over last year, double the annual growth for the last five years. “You don’t see this kind of thing but once in a career,” he said. Mr. Ball offers half a dozen reasons for the phenomenon, some of which have been building for the last few years, like taste, health and food safety, plus concern, especially among young people, about global warming.

But, Mr. Ball said, “The big one is the price spike.” The striking rise in the cost of staples like bread and milk has been accompanied by increases in the price of fruits and vegetables.

“Food prices have spiked because of fuel prices and they redounded to the benefit of the garden,” Mr. Ball said. “People are driving less, taking fewer vacations, so there is more time to garden.”

Each spring for the last five years, the Garden Writers Association has had TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, a polling firm, conduct a national consumer telephone survey asking gardeners what makes up the greatest share of their garden budgets. “The historic priorities are lawns, annuals, perennials, then vegetables, followed by trees and shrubs,” said Robert LaGasse, executive director of the association. This year, vegetables went from fourth place to second, which Mr. LaGasse called “an enormous attitude shift.”

People like Rita Gartin of Ames, Iowa, are part of that shift. Last year she kept a small garden. This year it has tripled in size into a five-by-seven-foot plot because, Ms. Gartin said, “The cost of everything is going up and I was looking to lose a few pounds, too; so it’s a win-win situation all around.”

Ms. Gartin, who fits gardening into her 12-hour workday as an interior designer and property manager, is not intimidated by the 20 kinds of vegetables she has planted: she was raised on a farm with a giant garden. A fence has been erected to keep the deer and people out, and it’s where the pole beans and snap peas are already climbing.

She is ready to take a stab at canning, but reserves the right to freeze everything instead, she said.

“I probably spent maybe $50 for everything and that’s less than a week’s cost of groceries or the price of a gym,” she said.

Seed companies and garden centers say they didn’t see the rush coming. There wasn’t any buildup last year, said Barbara Melera, the co-owner of the D. Landreth Seed Company in New Freedom, Pa., who takes the pulse of gardeners at the 13 garden shows she attends around the country each year.

“We pack for all the shows and bring 16 different beans, 10 packets for each kind,” Ms. Melera said. In earlier years, by the time the shows end in March, she said, “we are lucky if we have sold two of the 10 packets.”

“This year,” she said, “we sold out the first show and literally sold hundreds. We never sell any corn; this year we sold out of corn by the end of the season. We saw the same thing in the mail order business.”

She said the greatest demand was for what she calls “survival vegetables”: peas, beans, corn, beets, carrots, broccoli, kale, spinach and the lettuces. “It was so different from what it has been in prior years,” she added.

Randy Martell, one of the owners of the Garden Factory in Rochester, says it isn’t just vegetables. “The potted fruit trees were sold out by the first week of May,” he said. “Blueberries, raspberries and grapes are sold out. I think those sales have doubled. Overall sales are up about 30 percent.”

Dottie Wright, greenhouse manager at one of the Dammann’s Lawn, Garden and Landscaping Centers in Indianapolis, said she talks to people every day who are starting their first vegetable garden. “If they don’t have a yard they try containers for tomatoes and herbs. We can’t keep the herbs in this year.”

Thrilled as gardening experts are about this phenomenon, they know that many first timers don’t have any idea how much sweat equity is involved.

“Many people I sold seeds to have never gardened before,” Ms. Melera said, “and we have to find a way to educate them so the experience is successful. They have got to be taught.”

Mr. Ball of Burpee knows some of the new gardeners won’t stick with gardening beyond the first year. “Some people can’t get with the idea of digging a hole; getting buggy, sticky and hot,” he said. “Gardening is an active hobby; it’s a commitment.”

Doreen G. Howard, a former garden editor for Woman’s Day and now a writer for The American Gardener, is one of the committed. She has had a vegetable garden for most of the last 25 years. This year she has quadrupled the size of her vegetable plot in Roscoe, Ill., because of the economy and because she thinks the quality of store-bought produce has deteriorated. Once vegetables were just 5 percent of her garden; now they are 20 percent.

“Food prices have gotten to the point where we are seeing the difference,” she said. “It’s pushing our budget and we are a two-income family. It was never a concern before.” Ms. Howard said her grocery bill for two went from $100 a week to $140 a week this year.

She has chosen many vegetables that freeze well, investing in a secondhand freezer to store the bounty. She plans to dry the herbs that grow on the back porch next to boxes of mesclun, and to make pickles from the cucumbers and raisins from the grapes — her newest addition. And she is looking forward to a cellar full of Peruvian blue potatoes.

Some of Ms. Howard’s increased harvest will also go to food pantries through an organization called Plant a Row for the Hungry, which encourages gardeners to plant extra vegetables to share with the poor.

“I’m hoping to take $20 a week off my grocery bill,” she said. This is in the low range, according to Mr. Ball, who says a $100 investment will produce $1,000 to $1,700 worth of vegetables.

Ms. Gartin, now in her second year, says gardening is worth the effort.

“I got soft calluses from hoeing and digging,” she said, adding cheerfully, “but my fingernails are still pretty — long and not chipped. I probably spent 30 hours putting the garden in, and when I’d come into the house I’d be covered in sweat. But now it’s pretty easy because of all the rain we’ve had.”

And the vegetables, she said, are “awesome.” “It’s a totally different flavor from what you buy in the store. It’s exciting to go out and pick the fruits of your labor.”

June 11, 2008

More reasons to NOT let your baby cry it out

Mom in New York finds snake in crib, coiled around baby's leg
By the Associated Press
Article Launched: 06/11/2008 07:51:17 AM PDT

BRENTWOOD, N.Y. - A woman who awoke to her baby's cries was shocked to peer into the crib and find a foot-long snake wrapped around her 7-month-old daughter's leg.

Cari Abatemarco said she was visiting family in the Long Island town of Brentwood last week when she made the startling discovery.

"Once I lifted her up and the snake fell off of her, she stopped crying. But then I was the one crying all night," Abatemarco told Newsday. She was in town from Troy, in upstate New York.

A relative removed the hissing snake from the crib with a back scratcher, and placed it in a bucket until animal control officers arrived. The child was unharmed.

The reptile, identified as a non-venomous California king snake, didn't belong to Abatemarco's family members. Officials say they don't know where the snake came from.

The animal is being cared for at a Long Island animal shelter.

3-month-old Phoenix girl killed by ants during nap
Susan Carroll and Judi Villa
published in the Arizona Republic
May 20, 2003 12:00 AM

A 3-month-old girl was killed by ants while she was napping in a crib at a baby-sitter's home Monday afternoon, Phoenix police said.

The caregiver, who has not been identified, put the infant down for a nap about 1:30 p.m., police Detective Tony Morales said.

When she went to check on the little girl a half-hour later, she was covered in ants and was in "severe respiratory distress," he said.

Autumn White had "hundreds of ant bites" on her legs and her throat was swollen, Assistant Phoenix Fire Chief Bob Khan said. She was not breathing when firefighters arrived at the home near 83rd Avenue and Mohave Street.

"A child that age probably just couldn't take the venom," Morales said.

Khan said the baby may have had an allergic reaction, with the poison from the ants causing her respiratory problems.

At least 40 deaths occur annually in the United States from reactions to insect stings. A severe allergic reaction, anaphylaxis, occurs in 0.5 to 5 percent of the country's population, ccording to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Children and senior citizens are more vulnerable.

"Their resistance is less," Khan said. "They don't have the ability to recover like adults do."

Autumn was flown to St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center. After the little girl died, firefighters again were dispatched to the home, where the baby-sitter was so distraught that she was taken to an emergency room for treatment.

The black ants in the baby-sitter's home were about one-eighth of an inch long and apparently crawled into the home between the carpeting and the wall, police said.

Neighbors in the new, upscale tract home development in southwest Phoenix said they started noticing more ants when daily temperatures started rising.

Our neighbor went over to a friend's house to visit, leaving her husband in charge of the kids. The older boy went to bed, but the younger one (around 18 months at the time) refused to go to sleep.

He was playing with an empty soda can and started screaming and freaking out. The father was sick of him not sleeping and sick of listening to him scream, so he put him in his room alone. The child kept screaming and would not calm down.

Finally the father went in to check on the child and found his crib full of blood. Apparently the child had cut himself on the empty can (stuck his finger in the hole, presumably) and had a fairly deep cut that was bleeding profusely.

This was passed on to me by the friend whose house the mother was visiting. The father panicked and called for the mother to come home immediately. The child had lost quite a bit of blood by that time.

I'm not sure why the father didn't notice the child's bleeding finger when he put him in his crib. Maybe it was dark?

My own baby (16mo at the time) was sleeping in his bed at around 9:30pm. I was visiting with a houseguest in the backyard, out on the porch, and heard my baby wake up and start screaming.

Having company, I was tempted to let him cry for a minute to see if he would go back to sleep, but I got up and went to him. Ninety-five percent of the time when he cries at night he either has to pee, has *just* peed in his diaper, is hot/cold, or is sick.

He had tried to crawl off the end of the bed for some reason, and had gotten wedged between the bed and a rocking chair. He wasn't hurt, but he was very scared.

Normally he stays in bed until I come to him. Occasionally he will climb over the side and get out of bed if he wakes up, then he comes to find me. He must have gotten confused in the dark and thought the end of the bed was the side. Anyway, I'm REALLY glad I went to him quickly!

June 05, 2008

48 MPG? Ooooo, you sexy beast!

Guys who drive fuel-efficient cars are hot, and apparently I'm not the only one who thinks so.
Your fuel efficiency is so hot
by Judy Berman

Put away your books, kids, it's time for a pop quiz. When you picture the kind of car a high school boy might call a "real pussy wagon," what do you see?

A. A vintage Mustang convertible
B. A giant, hulking SUV
C. A tricked-out van with tinted windows and shag carpeting
D. A sensible, hybrid sedan that gets upward of 40 miles per gallon

Well, regardless of what your little brother thinks, ladies love that hot, hot gas mileage. A new study conducted by General Motors has found that 88 percent of women would rather meet a guy with a fuel-efficient vehicle than a dude with a sports car.

Besides being great news for Larry David, the report confirms something women have known all along -- namely, that men care a whole hell of a lot more about expensive, gas-guzzling cars that accelerate from zero to 60 in half a nanosecond than their potential mates ever could. (Reminds you a little bit of the whole "Does size matter debate," doesn't it?) I know I'm not the only girl out there who sees a guy in a Hummer and wonders what he's compensating for. Conventional wisdom holds that you can tell a lot about a man by the way he treats his mother, so why should Mother Earth be any exception?
I'd love to see a study on the average penis size of a male hulking SUV driver. I'd bet $50 it's smaller than average.

In the comments for the article linked above, several guys wrote in that no woman in her right mind would choose a guy driving a Prius over a guy driving a Ferrari.

Well first of all, I have NEVER seen a man driving an expensive sports car (Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lotus, and the like) who wasn't at LEAST 65 years old. I check out the drivers of those cars every single time I see one, just to try to prove my theory wrong, but so far, not once. They are solely driven by old guys sporting a spare tire, as far as I can tell.

Same with any guy driving a Corvette. They seem to all be old men who always wanted a Corvette, but couldn't afford it until they were ancient enough to look ridiculous driving one.

So given the choice between a slightly geeky young Prius driver and a fattish old guy squashed into a tiny sports car that he spent WAY too much money on, I'll take the geeky guy with good MPG, thanks very much. Any day.

I like Aston Martins and old classic Jaguars, but rarely see anyone driving one.

Full husband drives a Honda Civic Hybrid. Sorry ladies, he's taken.

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